Your new movie Murder
Made Easy - in a few words, what is it about?
Murder Made Easy
is a throwback murder mystery in the vein of Agatha Christie.
Itís the story of best pals Joan and Michael who host an elaborate
dinner party for their closest friends on the anniversary of the death of
Joanís husband. But as each guest arrives they find their very lives are
on the menu to protect a secret that links them all.
Murder Made Easy
being a murder mystery of sorts, is that a genre at all dear to you, and
some of your genre favourites?
Murder Made Easy
was heavily influenced by Alfred Hitchcockís Rope (one of my
favorite of his), Sleuth and Deathtrap. Those films plus the
Sherlock Holmes TV series,
starring the great
Jeremy Brett as Holmes, are some of my favorite murder mysteries and they
all were a huge inspiration for Murder Made Easy.
Do talk about Murder
Made Easy's screenwriter Tim Davis, and what was your
met Tim Davis on a TV show we were working on. Weíre both big fans of
murder mysteries and I thought Tim would be the perfect writer for Murder Made Easy.
pitched Tim the movie and he was like ďEh, I donít know.Ē I handed
him a treatment that I wrote. I told him to go home and read it. The next
day he called me and said, ďOkay, letís do this.Ē Thank God for that
treatment because apparently, Iím a terrible pitch man!
challenge that Tim and I faced from the very beginning was trying balance
a grim murder mystery with some humor. We knew that we wanted to infuse Murder Made Easy
with clever twists and turns but also with humor as
the subject matter could get pretty dark. We felt that it needed humor to
lighten up the mood and give the audience a bit of a release from time to
time. Pulling that off is really tricky and we knew we had a high standard
to live up to with films like Rope,
Deathtrap, and Sleuth.
All of those films have some really clever dark humor in them. So, Tim and
I spent a lot of time on the comedy thatís in Murder Made Easy.
Quite honestly, to what extent could
you as a director identify with Joan and Michael, pretty much the
puppeteers in your movie?
never thought of it that way! I guess Joan and Michael are very
director-like in the way they are manipulating the dinner guests and
moving the pieces around. But in terms of morality, personality and
world-view, Iím nothing like my two lead characters. At least I hope
Made Easy being restricted to just one locations, what were the
challenges of keeping things visually interesting, and what can you tell
us about the location to begin with?
Since Murder Made Easy
is very much like a play, having one location really set
the tone. It enabled the actors to use the space much like they would on a
theater stage and act in real time. It also meant that we saved money in
the budget because we obviously had less locations than a normal feature
film usually has.
the challenge of having one location was, how do we make our location look
cinematic? It came from Sherri Kauk, our talented cinematographer, who
came up with the idea of using an anamorphic lens. This lens creates a
shallow depth of field and a wider field of view that makes the space look
a lot more cinematic. It took a while for Sherri to sell me on the
anamorphic lens because I was a bit intimidated by it. But once I saw some
camera tests, I was all in. I love the look that Sherri created for Murder Made Easy.
I mean, we didnít have the budget for a full camera crew or steady cams.
Sherri was pulling her own focus and moving the camera around doing these
long, complicated takes. She never said, ďWe canít do that.Ē She
always found a way even with our budget restrictions. I canít wait to
work with her again!
What can you tell
us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
Iím a hardcore planner so I pre-planned as much as I could: storyboards,
recorded rehearsals on location etc. But once I got on set, my approach as
a director was a bit more hands off. I trusted the actors and the crew and
they repaid my trust by lifting me up and making an incredible film.
talk about Murder Made
Easy's key cast, and why exactly these people?
entire cast was amazing and we were lucky to have such gifted actors in
our film. But specifically our two leads, Jessica Graham and Christopher
Soren Kelly were also invaluable behind the camera.
first met Christopher Soren Kelly and Jessica Graham at the Dances with
Films film festival in LA. Chris directed and starred in a short film
It was almost like a one-man play with Chris talking to the camera. He
gave a riveting performance and I was like, ďI donít know who this guy
is, but I have to work with him.Ē Then
I saw another short film called Monkeys that
starred both Chris and Jessica and I knew right then that they were
perfect to play the leads in Murder Made Easy. The rest of the actors were cast through auditions. And
honestly, I couldnít be prouder to have such talented actors in our
an actress, Jessica brought passion and an incredible eye for detail to
the character of Joan. As our producer, she was extremely helpful in
terms of setting up auditions, finding actors, dealing with SAG, all of
which she had experience with and I really didnít. When we were
shooting, she was like our assistant director, making sure the schedule
ran on time, that we ate our meals when we were supposed to. Even when one
of our actors dropped out the day before he was to shoot his scenes
because he got pneumonia, Jessica was the one saying, ďWe canít wait
or push the schedule. We donít have the time or the budget. We have to
recast him now.Ē Luckily, we got the talented Edmund Lupinski to come in
and play the Professor role at the last minute. Jessica was invaluable and
without her Murder Made Easy
would not have been made.
few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
would say the one word that describes the on-set atmosphere would be
focused. Everyone, from the actors to the entire crew, were there to
accomplish one goal: make the best film we could. And Iím forever
grateful to my cast and crew. They lifted me up and Murder Made Easy
than I could ever have imagined!
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Murder
extremely grateful that some horror fans have embraced our film. Because
our film is really a thriller not a horror film at all. But to get support
from the horror community and horror reviewers has been incredible. Itís
given us a potential fan base and I really didnít expect that when we
made the film. So Iím very grateful for that, and hopefully more people
who see Murder Made Easy
who are horror fans will also embrace it.
Any future projects you'd like to
hoping to make The Housesitter, my horror script, into a movie in the next
couple years. Looking down the road, I hope that I have a couple more
feature films under my belt and I really hope Iíve improved as a
director. That would be a good goal for me - improvement!
our two lead actors, Jessica Graham and Christopher Soren Kelly, made a
fantastic sci-fi noir feature film called The Tangle (that Chris
directed). Itís on the festival circuit now so look out for it!
What got you into filmmaking in the first place,
and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
old enough that I was lucky to see the original 1977 Star Wars in the
theater and it blew my mind! That was a turning point for me for sure. I
didnít know what filmmaking was but I knew I wanted to do it after
seeing that film. Years later, I did study filmmaking and film theory at
Southern Illinois University and it was there where I was introduced to
world cinema. Tarkovsky being one of the filmmakers who left a huge
impression on me.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Murder
In college I
directed a short documentary called Grandfather, about my grandfather
not surprisingly. It was nominated for a Student Academy Award. Then I
moved to LA and I naÔvely thought that being nominated for a
Student Academy Award would kind of be a springboard for my directing
career. But I learned very quickly that just because you are nominated
for an award or whatever, you still have to get out there and do
projects on your own. People have to see what you can do before they can
know that you are a capable director. And it was
really years later when I got involved with a music scene in Los Angeles
called Kiss or Kill that inspired me to be a filmmaker again. Kiss or
Kill was a really great community of supportive artists and bands. And I
was inspired to pick up a camera and document it. I worked on that
documentary, called In Heaven There Is No Beer, for five years and we
finished it in 2012 and it was released in 2014. That kind of got me
back on the the directing path.
How would you describe yourself as a
Thatís a tough one to answer. You should ask my cast and crew! I know
that Iím extremely well planned and prepared at least from a visual
standpoint. I know exactly what I want in terms of camerawork and blocking
etc. and how to achieve it. Iíve never been the type of person, nor am I
the type of director, who just arrives on set and ďwings itĒ. That
would terrify me! Maybe after I directed five more films Iíll get there.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
many! Not to hit all the obvious choices but I am a 70ís kid! So for me
itís George Lucas, Spielberg, Kubrick, Ridley Scott, Coppola, Terry
Gilliam, Scorsese, David Lynch. Then thereís John Carpenter, Sam
Raimi, Ti West, Oz Perkins and many more in the horror genre.
thereís so many! Okay hereís a few: Brazil, Apocalypse Now,
Star Wars, The Thing (1982),
Alien, Aliens, Blade
Runner, Clockwork Orange,
Solaris (1971), Taxi
Driver, Goodfellas, Blue Velvet, Rope, Rear
Window. The list goes on and on!
... and of course, films you really
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
I donít have any films that truly hate. Iíll leave all the
hating up to Twitter. Thereís enough of that already.
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
can find Murder Made Easy
on Twitter at @murdermadeasy and on Facebook at
you can find me on Twitter at @davepal and myself and our cast and crew
are all on Facebook.
Anything else you're dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
The Murder Made Easy Blu-ray is now available through our wonderful
distributor Scream Team Releasing. Itís full of extras and special
features. It can be purchased here:
Thanks for the interview!
you for taking the time to talk with me. I really appreciate it!